Monday, Feb. 09, 2004

Aerin Lauder

Putting A Fresh Face On A Venerable Brand

In an upcoming ad for Estée Lauder's Clear Difference skin treatment, a ponytailed Carolyn Murphy lounges on leaf green and white pillows wearing homemade jewelry. "She looks pure and beautiful and approachable," says Aerin Lauder, who oversaw the campaign (and made sure the green pillows were exactly the same shade as the product's packaging).

Pure, beautiful and approachable are actually adjectives that could be used to describe Lauder. With her patrician good looks, the 33-year-old granddaughter of company founder Estée Lauder has long been a regular in the society and fashion pages. "Aerin will always be the outward face of Estée Lauder, showing you what the brand means," says William Schmitz, an analyst at Deutsche Bank who covers the cosmetics industry.

In 2001, Lauder was charged with translating the brand in another way. Following posts as director of marketing for Prescriptives (owned by the Estée Lauder Cos.) and six years in creative product development and marketing at Estée Lauder, she was named vice president of global advertising, in charge of all advertising for the Estée Lauder brand.

Lauder set out to give the $2.7 billion-a-year flagship — which was losing ground as the No. 1 cosmetics brand in the prestige category and whose core customer had crept up into the fortysomething age range — an image makeover. She lobbied successfully to bring on Murphy as a spokeswoman alongside veteran Elizabeth Hurley, signed Ethiopian-born Liya Kebede to the company's first major contract with a black model and replaced brand lensman Steven Meisel with Mario Testino, whose naturalistic aesthetic seemed more suited to the times. And she stuck with the same small cadre of creatives for each campaign. "We used to use one stylist for one ad, another stylist for another," says Lauder. "I think it was a mistake."